July 18, 2013

Playing the Game

The Loop > Magazine > Issue 6

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By Michael Mulvey

When I start something new, I think of The Legend of Zelda, Command & Conquer and Grand Theft Auto.

Let me explain.

Back in the mid ‘90s, I was getting my BFA with a concentration in graphic design at Rutgers-Newark. As the end of the decade and my college education grew nearer and nearer, I became more and more intrigued by the World Wide Web—specifically, the interactive design I found on it. This was back before Flash was a bad word. Flash was amazing. It allowed you to achieve a level of seamless interactivity HTML5 and Javascript are only now just starting to match. I followed artists like James Patterson and Joshua Davis and marveled at how they added animation and responsiveness to their work. Unlike the beautifully static books and posters I loved to read and examine, what these guys were doing on the Web changed over time. It moved and responded to your input. And they did it with code.

I wanted in on this Web design world. But what did I know about code?

When my first employer asked me if I knew HTML and Flash I lied and said “yes.” It wasn‘t a complete lie—I had been scouring WebMonkey.com (their HTML Cheatsheet is still great) to learn HTML and I read the manual for Flash front to back. I quickly transitioned from a guy pretending to know what he was doing to actually understanding how things worked, designing and building websites.

Fast forward a few years: I had a client who loved the website my team and I had designed for them, but wondered if we could make the Flash navigation bar of XML-driven. Once again, I confidently told my project manager we could and quickly ran out to teach myself this new markup language and how to parse through childnodes and attributes and stick them into multi-dimensional arrays.

Fast-forward another five years: The iPhone came to town and it was time to learn a whole new interactive environment with it’s own set of rules. Luckily for us designers and developers, Apple published Human Interface Guidelines to help us ramp up. (Be prepared for the HIG to change with iOS 7.)

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